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Dinner Rush! Backyard Pasta with Mint Pea Pesto


Isn’t it great when months of booking hotels, drafting itineraries, hoarding suntan lotion and dusting off beach chairs finally culminates in that magical week of seasonal bliss? Summer vacation is almost here for me, and boy do I need it!

Before skipping town for a week in Cape Cod, I had to do what any upstanding food fan would: clean out the fridge. A little something you might not know about me — I LOVE a good “yeah throw that in” bowl of pasta. Putting an assortment of deliciousness into a bowl with some pasta, sauce and cheese can only, by law of deductive reasoning, end up even more synergistically delicious than at the start. It’s a no-brainer and always a crowd-pleaser.

Speaking of crowd-pleasing, the other beautiful thing about this pasta is how perfect it is for a backyard BBQ. Take advantage of an already active grill by bringing prepped vegetables, cooked pasta and prepared pesto to your next cookout. Throw the vegetables on the grill when you arrive and then toss everything together and serve — instant pasta salad!

Safe travels (and good eats) to everyone traveling on vacation this summer!

Backyard Pasta with Mint-Pea Pesto

Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

For the pesto
2 cups frozen or fresh (hulled) peas
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1 clove garlic, grated
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more to garnish
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted, coarsely chopped
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper

1 pound pasta

For the vegetables
1 large red bell pepper, halved and seeded
1 poblano pepper, halved and seeded
2 ears sweet corn, shucked
1 zucchini, halved lengthwise
1/2 small bunch asparagus, trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Preheat a gas grill to medium-high (or prepare the charcoals for a charcoal grill).

Add the peas to the boiling water and cook until tender and bright green, about 2 minutes. Using a small mesh sieve or slotted spoon, retrieve the peas from the boiling water and transfer to the bowl of a food processor (reserve the pot of boiling water). Add the mint, garlic, cheese, walnuts, lemon zest and juice to the bowl with the peas. Pulse the machine a few times to chop the ingredients up and then, with the machine running, stream the oil into the bowl to make a paste. Season with salt and pepper and reserve.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook to al dente according to package directions. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and then drain the cooked pasta and reserve.

While the pasta is cooking, drizzle the vegetables with the olive oil and season with the garlic powder, salt and pepper. Grill the vegetables, turning occasionally, until blackened and tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Let the cooked vegetables cool enough to handle, cut the kernels off the corn, and then coarsely chop all the vegetables together.

In a large serving bowl, toss the pesto, cooked pasta and grilled vegetables together. Add a few splashes of the reserved pasta cooking water as needed to thin out the pesto and evenly coat everything. Serve the pasta garnished with additional grated cheese.

COOKS NOTE: Make this pasta your own by adding in whatever vegetables you have around. The ones noted here happened to be what I had in the fridge, but really anything that can be put on the grill (eggplant, summer squash, etc.) would be perfect.

Patrick W. Decker’s life revolves around food. Always has, probably always will. As a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and past member of the culinary teams for Food Network stars like Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee and Bobby Deen, he now works as a food stylist and producer in NYC by day and a food writer and recipe developer at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley by night. You can see what he’s up to by following his latest tweets on Twitter at @patrickwdecker or visiting his website at patrickwdecker.com.

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